Troubleshooting a macbook that doesn't boot after falling on the floor

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Trying to work on a friend's macbook.  The hard drive (160GB) and  optical drive both have october 2008 production dates.  It has 2 GB of ram (2 sticks, each 1 GB).

It was working fine till last night when it fell off a bed onto the floor.

It would only beep 1x every 5 seconds, no video display at startup.  Googling says 1 beep means no ram

I opened it up, reseated ram (both were in there securely already) and same 1 beep.

Saw also to remove / replace the 4 screws holding the RAM connector.  Did that, no change.

I happen to have a macbook around the same era.  Took the 2 sticks of 2 gb from there and installed in this problem mac.

It would start -white screen w apple logo, but then logo changed to circle with diagonal line in it. and loop through those 2 - apple and circle every 10? 20? seconds.  So that shows the screen works and not cracked.  ANd that the existing RAM failed? I try 1 stick from original machine and still get beep 1x every 5 seconds (is the top or bottom RAM slot the 'first' if you only have 1 stick?)

I am much more familiar with windows PCs.

I  tried holding option, command, R and P at start, and  Tried option R and just option. I think the first 2 it doesn't even boot (no white screen). With just option, I get a picture of a hard drive. clicking on that and /or the arrow below it gets nothing.

Being almost 10 year old machine, I kinda want to call it quits, but don't want him taking it somewhere else and they take 2 seconds and it's working again!  (a pride thing).

I can take the working hard drive out of the other working Mac and see what happens.  but every step a) takes time to get to hard drive b) takes time to put back together if it doesn't work and he wants it back.  and c) even if it works, so we get him another hard drive cause his died. And RAM?   Is tall that hat and the labor to install OS worth it on a 10 year old machine.

is there a way to boot off a thumb drive / similar to test this hard drive to see if anything is on it / if smart indicators show a problem or do I have to swap the drives then test the drive in a windows system?
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Principal Software Engineer
If the system was running when it fell on the floor, the chances are pretty good that the hard drive platters and the heads were damaged.  I'd extract the drive, take it to a system where you can hook it up and run an extended SMART test, and see what the drive has to say for itself.
thanks. I totally agree that a spinning hard drive hitting the floor isn't good : ).

not to debate / doubt your thinking, but rather get more thoughts from you:

after the fall, the machine is doing the 1 beep at POST (is that what you call it in Mac world, like called on a windows PC), before getting to the (likely) failed hard drive.

The hard drive isn't making any unusual sounds.

I like a challenge as much as the next person, but unless they need some data off the hard drive, what's your rule of thumb for just walking away from an older machine like this?
Reset the SMC.
Remove the battery.  Hold the power button more than 5 seconds.  Let go and see if it starts up.

Check the drive cable connector.  Did it wiggle loose?

Hold option key during boot.  Does a disk show up for you to select to boot?

If the disk shows, try to boot into target mode:
Press T at boot up and see if it boots up in target mode and sees a disk at all.  Connect it to a wired network or through firewire and see if you can see the disk.

If the data is visible, back up the data from the disk.

Insert the OS X installer disk and hold the option key upon Boot up.  Select the installer disk.  Attempt to reinstall the OS.  If you don't go into disk utility first and erase the disk, it will only install the OS onto the disk and not erase any existing /Applications/ or /Users/ data.  You should still back up your data before attempting this.
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Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software Engineer
what's your rule of thumb for just walking away from an older machine like this?

"Well, sir, this is not a standard situation like adding new memory or replacing a hard drive.  These issues we charge by the hour, and our current hourly rate is $100/hour.  ... How much time, sir?  I wouldn't dare guess, but the shop minimum is 2 hours.  ... Yes, that's a lot of money for a system that goes on fleabay for $150, no doubt about it.  But how about this:  I can pull the drive and put it on the diagnostics system and see what that says about it, that'll run $50 and give us some idea of whether the drive is the problem.  Then you can decide whether you want to put a new drive in it and send the old drive out for data recovery, if the drive is the problem, or just replace the system if the drive is not the problem."
If you have the time to "Do It Yourself", partly for your own education, and partly for fun, then it's not wasted time.  How much is your time worth to you.  The items I proposed, except for the reinstall, should only take a short time to try out.

Thank you for all the comments - serial - totally true, except that as much as I DO want to learn / experiment, I'm sloppy (so I've got 2 macbook pros with their bottom's open and look similar from that view), 4 sticks of ram (2 that are 2GB from my machine and 2 that are 1 GB from his machine), 2 hard drives (mine made in 2012 and his in 2009). Yeah, I should number the RAM, put stickers on things.  I do that, but still....

So I did get more methodical in my testing.

1 of the 2 1GB ram from his machine appears to be bad on both machines (1 beep at startup).

I had connected his drive to my windows PC, bought paragon's HFS+ app to read it, ran crystal disk info that said that drive was OK, I could browse his drive in my windows PC.

I put that drive back in his machine. I put the other good 1GB ram back in and it boots.

But 1GB RAM is really low, right?  So it tried both, then 1 of the 2GB ram from the other macbook pro.  the 1 GB say 1Rx8, same as the 2GB sticks.  The speed and manufacturer is different between the 1 and 2 GB sticks.

This is the frustrating part - sometimes 1 or both 2 GB would boot (in either machine), other times I'd get the 1 (no ram) or sometimes 3 beeps (bad RAM) in either machine.  not consistent bad ram / bad slots on either machine.

On his machine, it would boot fine with 1 or 2GB sticks, it'd reboot and do the RP Option Command and then I'd get 3 beeps.

THat same ram in my machine would work ok with the RP option command sequence.

I didn't remove the battery - I don't have a 3 way phillips  screwdriver (is that what you call it?) and can't see where its connector is to just diconnect battery.

I have to try the other keystroke sequences once I hear back from you guys.

So in the end, I can boot his machine with his drive and 1 of the 1gb sticks.  but I when I do the RPOptionCommand strokes  - I get the 3 beeps.

David AndersTechnician
Commented:  has very detailed Mac howtos including the battery cable location.
It's called a tri-point driver and is included in the box with a Newertech batteries

COMMAND+OPTION+P+R  is ZAP PRam and will beep until you release the keys.

I have been curating Mac Troubleshooting links for three years at
On his machine, it would boot fine with 1 or 2GB sticks, it'd reboot and do the RP Option Command and then I'd get 3 beeps.
That tells me that there might be a broken solder connection or some copper trace has a fracture on the motherboard or maybe even the RAM.

On a system that old, you probably can't upgrade beyond Snow Leopard (10.6).  Snow leopard worked ok with 1 GB of RAM, but really needed 2 GB if you wanted to open several apps and tabs.

Tiger (10.4) officially ran with 256 MB RAM, but could unofficially run with 128 MB of RAM and did better with 512 MB RAM.

Leopard (10.5) officially ran with 512 MB RAM.

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